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Best Bums in Art History

Artist unknown, Borghese Sleeping Hermaphroditus, Roman copy of the 2nd century CE after a Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Bodies And Erotic Art

Best Bums in Art History

When we met up with Zuza, our CEO, we started chatting about what’s missing in our blog. We quickly came to a conclusion: we miss some hot and shapely buttocks. So, here they come, best bums in art history, the selection is mine, so send in your favourites, too!

Michelangelo, Ignudo, c.1509, Sistine Chapel

Although nudes in Classical art incorporated buttocks as a harmonic part of the body, artists often did everything to give the viewer a chance to admire them also separately (see our cover photo).

Best Bums in Art History
Diego Velázquez, The Rokeby Venus, 1647–51, National Gallery, London

However, as Anne Hollander wrote in 1975 in her provocative book Seeing Through Clothes, in which she focused on representation of body and they way it’s clothed, “the erotic appeal of male body (…) may seem to reside in one or another of its separate parts” and therefore “the masculine backside has even more readily lent itself to specialized erotic preoccupations [than the female one] because it thrusts itself on the attention separately.”  Do you agree?

Thomas Eakins, The Swimming Hole, 1884–85, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, US

As she argued, it was because of the aptness of male body to compartmentalization: while female body is not so easily separable in parts because of the layer of fat evenly covering all the skeleton, male body more readily lends itself for division.

Jacques-Louis David, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, 1799, Musée du Louvre, Paris

She argued that starting already with the Roman armour which was easily divided into pieces, e.g. legpiece, codpiece, etc., we can see a trend in art which emphasized this articulation. Since females do not have external genital organs and males do, male genital parts (as well as their buttocks which usually present some charm), have naturally been more visually startling, and hence erotic, than any other female body part.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Nymphaeum, 1878, Haggin Museum, Stockton, CA, US

As she wrote, “male behind (…) appears as a sign of submissive and receptive sexuality even more than the female version does. (…) it is soft even on the most muscular: its erotic power is ensured.”

Gustave Caillebotte, Man at His Bath, 1884, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Therefore, for a long time female buttocks did not get as much attention as male ones. In Renaissance art, it was common to see many nudes but they mostly followed the pattern: collarbones- long, long, long stomach- crotch- legs. Breasts and bums were often marginalized.

Best Bums in Art History
Joaquín Sorolla, Nude woman, 1902, Museo Sorolla, Madrid

From the beginning of the 18th century female buttocks started to appear in painting more often. This time, however, they were well-emphasized and very sexualized. Obviously, it was a common move of male painters who this way attracted a way bigger audience craving some voyeuristic attraction they could excuse as simple appreciation of fine arts.

Francois Boucher, 1742, Education of Cupid, Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin

Sartre said that obscenity of bums derives from their contingency. Bums are behind, their movements are uncontrolled as they depend on the legs. Their owner is hence completely unconscious of their likely wobbling and swaying which can be considered erotic or seductive.

Pierre Subleyras, Charon Ferrying the Shades, c.1744, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Then, the buttocks’ unconscious appeal is increased by clothing which draws attention to them. And if art chooses to depict the already indecent behind without covering it… then it’s stepping it up to a yet another level of indecency.

Best Bums in Art History
Félix Vallotton, Study of buttocks, c.1884, private collection

I find this bum study so wonderful! So simple, so wonderful! Vallotton, as always, is a star!

Best Bums in Art History
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Dante And Virgil In Hell, 1850, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

To close in a dramatic style, I’m leaving you with the bold painting of Bouguereau who exaggerated the poses of two condemned men to emphasize their tense muscles. Just look at these shapely bums!

You might like also this article by Candy: Does My Bum Look Big in This? The Female Body in Art!

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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